Families need more home help services
Municipal assistance for homes has been run down in Helsinki, but now the direction is changing
In 2011, municipal assistance was received by slightly more than 1,000 Helsinki families with children.
In addition, 120 families got a voucher which they could use to buy services from private service providers.
The numbers are small compared with the fact that the total number of families with young children in Helsinki is around 56,000.
Home assistance is preventive work: help given before a family faces a serious crisis.
Family services have been reduced considerably over the past 20 years. At the same time, the need for child welfare has grown dramatically.
Paavo Voutilainen, Director of the Social Services Department of Helsinki, regards the reduction in family services as one of the greatest mistakes made over the past few decades.
”The consequences of this mistake have tasted bitter”, Voutilainen notes.
The more difficult the family’s situation is, the more the solutions will cost.
The placement of one child in institutional care costs about EUR 70,000 to 100,000 every year.
At present, Helsinki is trying to improve its family services.
It is the Social Services Department’s top priority project in 2012.
”We have extensive possibilities to invest in this”, Voutilainen asserts.
However, he does not promise more euros or additional workers right away. Instead, home help services will be developed according to wishes expressed by families with children.
A survey asking opinions of families indicated that fatigue, a lack of support networks, and the inflexibility of working life put a strain on parents.
Families need help when a child is born, falls ill, or has sleep or behavioural problems.
However, many of the respondents did not know anything about municipal family services.
”The threshold to contact us may also be high”, says Sonja Mattila from the Helsinki Social Services Department.
Families fear that they will end up on the black list of the Social Services Department, if they actively seek help. This would not happen.
The fee for home help services may be higher than that for full-time daycare. In Helsinki, the fee is based on the family’s income, size, and need for help.
A three-hour visit costs EUR 0.00-67.00. If a family pays the full fee and needs help once a week, the invoice amounts to EUR 268 per month. In comparison, the fee for a full-time daycare place is EUR 254 per month.
The families with children who responded to the survey criticised the tariffs for the home help services. The Social Services Department is examining whether the pricing system could be changed.
”We will see to it that the issue of fees will not become a threshold”, says Director of Social Services Paavo Voutilainen.
It is also possible to apply for exemption from the municipal service fees.
Previously in HS International Edition:
Help often comes too late for troubled families (30.4.2012)
Government considering shortening child home care allowance period (2.3.2012)
City of Helsinki Social Services Department